Demolition Man and the Patron Theory of Politics.

So I watched this last night.

I was curious to watch it again because of the political correctness but it turned out to be unexpectedly interesting in other ways.

There is a quite a bit of sexual subtext in this film that I won’t go into but this guy could. I will talk about the politics, however, since I know more about politics than sex.

The film, which I won’t bother to summarise, has the same structure of High and Low v Middle that Chris describes with the Patron Theory of Politics:

The model thus provided by Jouvenel is both exceptionally simple, yet of devastating importance, it is simply that in any given political configuration if there are multiple centers of power then conflict will occur as the centers of power seek to both secure their position and pursue expansion. The dominant power center will become the central Power. This dominant Power will enlarge its remit and power not by direct physical conflict (which would in effect spell outright civil war) but through means presented (and seen by both the actors in power, and those who benefit) as being beneficial to society overall.

The example of the expansion of the remit of the monarchs of Europe and its transformation into the modern state is presented by Jouvenel to demonstrate this model, and the picture painted is stark and repeatedly supported by historical record.  As Jouvenel makes plainly clear, “It is true, no doubt, that Power could not make this progress but for the very real services which it renders and under cover of the hopes aroused by its displays of the altruistic side of its nature.”[iv] (Bold mine.)

In Demolition Man,  the “king” is called Dr Cocteau:

Dr. Cocteau (who is one of the same people who built the CryoPrison) creates what he believes to be the perfect society where crime is a virtually non-existent, and paternalistic society that forbids anything deemed unhealthy, including fatty foods and sexual intercourse. Even cursing is illegal: in one of the film’s running gags, characters (typically Spartan) incur a fine each time he or she swears. Also tobacco products and alcohol are illegal. All part of his personal dream he then calls the “Cocteau Plan“. With this plan, he’s able to began what became San Angeles, a clean and pacific version of what used to be the city of L.A. in California as well.

Dr Cocteau’s schemes are challenged, however, by the “scraps” – people who look and sound like real “red Americans” – who do not want to live under his “benevolent rule” where you cannot eat meat, smoke, drink or have sex. So, since Dr Cocteau cannot use the police – who are wimps – Dr Cocteau uses “proxies” instead by:

Manipulating Simon Phoenix into killing Edgar Friendly, being beloved by his own people.


Of course it is not only in times of public danger when Power proceeds under the name of public interest. The direction of the monarch’s competition was not only towards external power centers to which overt war was socially permissible, but also internal competitors in the form of barons and lords to whom overt war was not permissible (generally.) To them a process which can best be described as a coalition of the high and low in society was in action. As Jouvenel notes regarding Power:

The growth of its authority strikes private individuals as being not so much a continual encroachment on their liberty, as an attempt to put down various petty tyrannies to which they have been subject. It looks as though the advance of the state is a means to the advance of the individual.[vi] (Bold mine.)

Edgar Friendly is the “Middle”; he resists the “paternalism” or “altruism” of Dr Cocteau. Here he is:


Simon Phoenix is the “Low”; he has been brought out of a “freezer” in order to kill Friendly by Dr Cocteau. Dr Cocteau has fiddled (using technology) with Phoenix’s brain in order to make him kill Friendly, but not him.

The problem for the High is controlling their “barbarians” and making sure their “pets” don’t turn on them as the following clip demonstrates:


Phoenix: “… all we have to do is kill an old man named Raymond….I want you loot, pillage, plunder, I want you to steal, I want you to do all the wonderful things we used to do before all of this happened. This world will be ours.

Now, in the next clip, we have the High meeting his end, but just before, he explains the entire rationale of the High using the Low when he says: “People are terrified of you…. yes but this time they are really intimidated and now I will have Carte blanche to create the perfect society – my society.”  (Carte blanche in English means “unlimited discretionary power to act; unrestricted authority.”)


Dr Cocteau’s mistake (apart from not reading this book) was dealing with Simon Phoenix directly. He should have used at least two “cut-outs”; he also should have had a bodyguard unit as well – not the fat poof he had following him about all the time – especially for this meeting. (At the very least, he should have had the good sense to have disarmed the hooligans before hand alas.)

Thus, we have the whole drama of Power before us.

How the vision of order in this film differs from Moldbug’s, is that Moldbug thinks you don’t have to control anyone’s mind or police anyone’s speech; so long as you have formal contracts, competent security and Exit pressures, you don’t have to engage the use of proxies or “Orwellian” practices.

Dr Cocteau’s mistake in this regard was not building a new city for the “scraps”; letting them have their meat, drink, smoke and shagging – but then taxing them for the trouble.

Sometimes the best way to control people is to not control them. Strategy is paradoxical. 

(In that last link, the author worries that “…the irony that what promised to be the culmination of Luttwak’s past work may undo any of its positive effects by giving new license to even more irrationality in our foreign and defense policies.”  (Bold mine.) That, dear boy, is precisely the point! Because for USG “The worse things get, the better they will be.”


2 thoughts on “Demolition Man and the Patron Theory of Politics.

  1. Pingback: Demolition Man and the Patron Theory of Politics. | Reaction Times

  2. Marlon says:

    More pop culture:
    The solution Dr. Cocteau should have sought is found in the Matrix.
    The machines have rebellious humans live in Zion, a crappy city, where they can enjoy their freedom.
    Furthermore, the machines know exactly where it is and can destroy it whenever they desire.


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